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Senate impeachment trial arguments to start February 9

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The second Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is scheduled to begin on February 9 after Senate leaders reached a deal to push it back, giving Trump’s legal team more time to prepare and Senate Democrats a chance to consider Covid-19 legislation and to confirm President Joe Biden’s Cabinet.

House Democrats will formally walk over the single article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate on Monday evening, but the agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will push back the substance of the trial until February. Without an agreement, the trial would have started the afternoon after the article was transmitted to the Senate.
“We have made good progress in our efforts to determine the timing and structure of the impeachment trial of Donald J Trump,” Schumer said Friday evening announcing the trial schedule, saying it would begin the week of February 8.
Under the agreement, the ceremonial functions of the trial will occur next week, with the articles being presented on Monday and senators being sworn in as jurors on Tuesday. Then the trial will pause, while the House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team exchange pre-trial briefs for two weeks. The final briefs would be due on February 9, allowing the trial itself to begin.
A delay to the impeachment trial also makes sense for Democrats because the trial had threatened to stall the confirmation of Biden’s Cabinet, as well as put a stop to any consideration of another Covid stimulus package, as Senate Republicans said Friday they would not allow the Senate to confirm nominees at the same time the trial is going on. The trial’s timing had been one of several logistical hurdles the Senate is tackling amid broader negotiations between Schumer and McConnell over how the 50-50 Senate will be governed.
McConnell had proposed delaying the trial until early February, arguing that Trump’s legal team should be given ample time to prepare after the House’s swift impeachment of Trump for “incitement of insurrection” earlier this month. The timeline Schumer announced Friday evening is one week earlier that what McConnell had proposed, but the Kentucky Republican’s team praised the agreement Friday.” This is a win for due process and fairness,” said McConnell spokesman
The length of the trial is still an open question and will depend both on whether the House impeachment managers seek to call witnesses and the length of senators’ questions for the legal teams. But sources say most believe the trial will be shorter than the three-week 2020 impeachment trial for Trump.
The timing for the trial had remained unsettled on Friday morning as the negotiations continued between Senate leaders. On Friday morning, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would transmit the impeachment article to the Senate on Monday, in effect setting a deadline for the Senate to cut a deal on the trial timing.
“We are respectful of the Senate’s constitutional power over the trial and always attentive to the fairness of the process, noting that the former president will have had the same amount of time to prepare for trial as our Managers,” Pelosi said Friday. “Our Managers are ready to begin to make their case to 100 Senate jurors through the trial process.”
Republicans made clear Friday that Biden’s agenda would have been frozen until the Senate finished the trial, had it taken place next week.
“We won’t be doing any confirmations, we won’t be doing any Covid-19 relief, we won’t be doing anything else other than impeaching a person who’s not even president,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of Senate GOP leadership.
Cornyn said Republicans haven’t given consent to bifurcate the trial days to take up nominations during the trial. “No, it’s not gonna happen,” he said.
In order to convict Trump, Democrats need a two-thirds majority, meaning at least 17 Republicans would have to vote to convict Trump, assuming that all 50 Democrats do. Ten House Republicans joined with Democrats to impeach.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, considered a swing GOP vote, said Friday that the process “has to be fair.”
“My thought process is to see what happens as this unfolds,” she said. “You know, we learned this morning that Speaker Pelosi is going to transmit the article on Monday. As I understand, right now, there hasn’t been an agreed-to schedule on the pre-trial. I think what McConnell laid down was eminently reasonable, in terms of making sure that we got process. Got to have process and the process has to be fair. So yeah, so we’ve got to get started, I guess.”
The Biden administration has publicly taken a hands-off approach to the impeachment process has publicly taken a hands-off approach to the impeachment process. Biden has never had a strong appetite for impeaching Trump, advisers say, but he also has little desire for allowing the Senate trial to drag out any longer than necessary.
“We need to move past this,” a Biden official told CNN. “The only way for that to happen is for the trial to begin.”
But Biden said at a White House announcement Friday that he saw the upside to waiting on the trial. “The more time we have to get up and running and meet these crises, the better,” he said.

‘It will be a full trial’

A faction of Senate Republicans has argued that the impeachment trial would be unconstitutional because Trump has already left office. It’s an argument that Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, has suggested Trump’s legal team should adopt.
“I think it’s obvious that the post-presidential impeachment has never occurred in the history of the country for a reason, that it’s unconstitutional, that it sets a bad precedent for the presidency and it continues to divide the nation,” Graham said Friday.
But Schumer pushed back on that argument, noting that both liberal and conservative legal scholars have said there is precedent for an impeachment trial of a former official.
“The Senate will conduct a trial of the impeachment of Donald Trump,” Schumer said. “It will be a full trial. It will be a fair trial. But make no mistake, there will be a trial, and when that trial ends, senators will have to decide if they believe Donald John Trump incited the insurrection against the United States.”
McConnell said Friday that the Senate should give Trump a “full and fair process” to mount his impeachment defense.
“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House. The sequel cannot be an insufficient Senate process that denies former President Trump his due process or damages the Senate or the presidency itself,” McConnell said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense and the Senate can properly consider the factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake.”

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Michigan school shooting: Suspect’s parents deny involuntary manslaughter

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bbc– The parents of a teenager suspected of a deadly school shooting have denied charges of involuntary manslaughter following their arrest on Saturday.

James and Jennifer Crumbley were found hiding in a Detroit basement having failed to show up in court on Friday.

The judge set bail at $500,000 each after agreeing with prosecutors that the Crumbleys posed a flight risk.

They are accused of ignoring warning signs before their son’s alleged rampage.

Prosecutors say Ethan Crumbley, 15, used his father’s gun to shoot classmates in the nearby Michigan town of Oxford, killing four and wounding seven.

The Crumbleys’ lawyers said that the pair had intended to turn themselves in to the authorities on Saturday morning, according to US media.

However reports in the US say the couple had withdrawn $4,000 (£3,000) from an ATM and had turned off their mobile phones.

Oakland County lead prosecutor Karen McDonald said the terrorism charge was neither “usual” nor “typical” but reflected the wider impact the shooting would have.

“What about all the children who ran, screaming, hiding under desks? What about all the children at home right now who can’t eat and can’t sleep and can’t imagine a world where they could ever step foot back in that school?” she said.

“Those are victims, too, and so are their families and so is the community. The charge of terrorism reflects that.”

Why have the parents been charged?

On Friday, Ms McDonald acknowledged that charging parents in a child’s alleged crime was also unusual.

According to her office’s investigation, the boy was with his father last Friday when Mr Crumbley bought the firearm believed to have been used in the shooting.

A post on the boy’s social media later that day showed off his dad’s new weapon as “my new beauty”, adding a heart emoji.

Just one day before the shooting, a teacher said she saw the boy searching online for ammunition, which prompted a meeting with school officials, Ms McDonald said. After being informed of the incident, Mrs Crumbley texted her son: “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

And on Tuesday morning – hours before the rampage – Mr and Mrs Crumbley were called into the school for an urgent meeting after teachers found a note by their son, including several drawings of guns and bloodied people alongside captions like “the thoughts won’t stop. Help me”, and “blood everywhere”. The boy had also written “My life is useless” and “The world is dead”, according to the prosecutor.

School officials told the pair they would have to seek counselling for their son.

But the boy’s parents did not want him to be removed from school that day, Ms McDonald said, and did not ask him whether he had the gun with him, or search his backpack.

At 13:22 later that day, Mrs Crumbley texted her son to say: “Ethan, don’t do it.” Minutes later her husband called police to report his gun was missing, said the prosecutor.

But authorities say the boy had already emerged from the school bathroom and opened fire on fellow students.

Ms McDonald said the charges were meant to hold the Crumbleys accountable and to send a message about responsible gun ownership.

“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable, and it’s criminal,” she said.

The prosecutor had previously noted that, although the gun had been purchased legally, it “seems to have just been freely available” for the child’s use. According to her, the suspect took the gun from an unlocked drawer in his parents’ bedroom and brought it to school.

Neither federal nor state law requires gun owners to keep their weapons locked away from their children.

In a video message posted to YouTube on Thursday, the school’s superintendent Tim Throne said that – while the boy and his parents had been called to the office – “no discipline was warranted” at the time.

He added that the school looked like a “war zone” and would not be ready to operate again for weeks.

Ms McDonald alleged on Friday that, when James Crumbley heard about the shooting, he “drove straight to his home to look for his gun” before calling authorities to say he suspected his son was the perpetrator.

“I’m angry as a mother. I’m angry as a prosecutor. I’m angry as a person that lives in this county,” she said. “There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent.”

She said her office had “a mountain of digital evidence” to show the suspect had planned the attack “well before the incident”.

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Jussie Smollett’s Lawyer Says Actor Is ‘A Real Victim’ Of Attack

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huffpost— Jussie Smollett “is a real victim” of a “real crime,” his attorney said in opening statements at the ex-“Empire” actor’s trial Monday, rejecting prosecutors’ allegation that he staged a homophobic and racist attack in Chicago after the television studio where he worked didn’t take hate mail he had received seriously.

Defense attorney Nenye Uche said two brothers attacked Smollett in January 2019 because they didn’t like him, and that a $3,500 check the actor paid the men was for training so he could prepare for an upcoming music video, not as payment for staging a hate crime, as prosecutors allege. Uche also suggested a third attacker was involved and told jurors there is not a “shred “ of physical and forensic evidence linking Smollett to the crime prosecutors allege.

“Jussie Smollett is a real victim,” Uche said.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb said the actor recruited the brothers to help him carry out a fake attack, then reported it to Chicago police, who classified it as a hate crime and spent 3,000 staff hours on the investigation. Smollett said he was attacked by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, a report that ignited political and ideological divisions around the country.

“When he reported the fake hate crime that was a real crime,” said Webb, who was named as special prosecutor after Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office dropped the original charges filed against Smollett. A new indictment was returned in 2020.

Smollett, who arrived at the courthouse in Chicago Monday with his mother and other family members, is charged with felony disorderly conduct. The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said it is likely that if Smollett is convicted he would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.

Webb told jurors Smollett was unhappy about how the studio handled the letter he received. That letter included a drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree and “MAGA,” a reference to Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan, Webb said.

He said Smollett then concocted the fake attack and had a “dress rehearsal” with the two brothers — who worked on the “Empire” set with Smollett — including telling them to shout racial and homophobic slurs and “MAGA.” Smollett also told the brothers to buy ski masks, red hats and a rope, Webb told jurors.

“He told them to use a rope to make it look like a hate crime,” Webb said.

But Uche said Smollett had turned down extra security when the studio offered it. He also portrayed the brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, as unreliable, saying their story has changed while Smollett’s has not, and that when police searched their home they found heroin and guns.

Twelve jurors plus three alternates were sworn in late Monday for a trial that Judge James Linn said he expects to take about one week. Cameras are not allowed inside the courtroom and the proceedings are not being livestreamed, unlike in other recent high-profile trials.

Whether Smollett, who is Black and gay, will testify remains an open question. But the siblings will take the witness stand.

Jurors also may see surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras that police reviewed to trace the brothers’ movements before and after the reported attack, as well as a video showing the brothers purchasing supplies hours earlier.

Buried in nearly 500 pages of Chicago Police Department reports is a statement from an area resident who says she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she “could see hanging out from underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope.”

Her comments could back up Smollett’s contention that his attackers draped a makeshift noose around his neck. Further, if she testified that the man was white, it would support Smollett’s statements — widely ridiculed because the brothers, who come from Nigeria, are Black — that he saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers.

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The White House is tapping oil reserves to try to bring down high gas prices

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npr– The United States plans to draw 50 million barrels of oil from its emergency oil reserves in coming months, a widely anticipated step aimed at trying to take the edge off high gas prices that have been hurting consumers at the pump — and hurting President Biden in the polls.

Inflation has emerged as a top political concern with voters, who have seen prices for gasoline and other staples surge in recent months. U.S. gas prices are at their highest level since 2014.

Biden has been talking with other leaders about the problem, and other major consumers — China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom — will take similar steps to release oil from their stockpiles, the White House said on Tuesday.

In a Tuesday news conference announcing the decision, Biden said, “We’re taking action.”

“The big part of the reason Americans are facing high gas prices is because oil-producing countries and large companies have not ramped up the supply of oil quickly enough to meet the demand. And the smaller supply means higher prices globally — globally — for oil,” he said.

Biden warned that actions by the U.S. and other nations wouldn’t fix problems at the pump “overnight,” but said Americans could soon expect relief.

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